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Hike the Hill update: House Visits

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The front of the House Chamber
The front of the U.S. House of Representatives' Chamber

By Bruce Matthews

Finishing up an intensive day of Hill visits, to Members of the House. Started out with MN-08’s Rick Nolan, who personally greeted John Leinen and myself, and talked about his love of trails, including those he’s built on his own land. We strategized with his legislative director, Jim Swiderski, about when to introduce the Arrowhead Re-Route legislation (not whether just when to do it!). He expressed concerns about not making it a target, and particularly about the ugly partisan climate in the House Natural Resources Committee (which we’ve experienced first-hand in past Congresses).  Jim seems pretty astute; his concerns are more on how to make sure the legislation passes than on simply getting the bill introduced.

We’re working on some strategies to bring on a Republican co-sponsor, and as many of the Minnesota delegation as possible. John Leinen’s done a great job with getting commitments from all the Minnesota Members we could reasonable expect to sign on. Andrea and I are working on the rest. My meetings today with Michigan’s and New York’s delegation brought promises from most that, if the bill reached the floor, they would vote for it. This is good, but we need another champion to help us get it through committee and onto the floor, unencumbered with adverse amendments. I’m working on that—and will be reaching out to many of you in the next few weeks to try to bring it about. Don’t want to show all the cards publicly at this point, but it’s a priority.

After Monday’s and today’s meetings I can say that the climate in Congress is somewhat better. But they are pre-occupied with sequestration issues, and the partisan paralysis that characterized recent Congresses is alive and well, if maybe a little less visible. But we’re smarter and we’ve got a champion in MN-08 willing to strategize with us. This is an amazing thing—a very welcome and positive development.

Tomorrow we meet with the Senate side. Stay tuned!